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A Fall 2015 Discussion with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre
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A Fall 2015 Discussion with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

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A Fall 2015 Discussion with David LaMarche
Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

Exploring Fall Season Musical Scores

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 12, 2015

(See More ABT Interviews, Reviews, and Candids.)

This is a series of questions posed to David LaMarche, Conductor of American Ballet Theatre, which is soon having its Fall Season at the David H. Koch Theater, October 21, 2015 to November 1, 2015. David LaMarche has been favorably reviewed as ABT Conductor on these pages for well over a decade. I recently chatted with Maestro LaMarche at A A Jing, at 689 Ninth Avenue at 47th–48th Streets, NYC. (See a testimonial essay about that dinner.)

David LaMarche will soon begin conducting Fall 2015 performances at the David H. Koch Theater, including works in the Fall Gala (The full American Ballet Theatre performance schedule is here.) I posed a series of questions, below, about the musical scores for those five ballets in the Fall Repertory, which he will personally conduct.

REZ: Michel Fokine's "Le Spectre de la Rose" is absolutely one of my favorite ballets. Tell me what you know about the music by Carl Maria von Weber (Invitation to the Dance). That cello solo plays in my head for weeks, after I see this ballet. How do you enhance its poignancy? How do you help the male Rose character achieve his magnetism and mystery? I have reviewed Cornejo in this role, but not Lane. How are you collaborating with Sarah Lane in the tempo and musical aura?

DLM: “Invitation to the Dance” was written by Carl Maria von Weber as a solo piano piece in the key of D flat. Hector Berlioz orchestrated it in the version you will hear in the performances, and it will be in D major, a more comfortable key for the strings. Fortunately, we have a wonderful cellist, Scott Ballantyne, playing the opening solo, so I won't have to do anything special, just sit back and let him play! Once the man makes his famous entrance, we have one of the most propulsive, dancy waltzes in the literature. It has its own momentum. There are a few places where I will relax the tempo slightly, in order to allow both dancers to move more fully. Sarah and I have just discussed the opening and closing, before and after the dream, in terms of musical timing, and it's very beautiful.

REZ: It's been a decade or so, since I last saw Kurt Jooss' "The Green Table", a ballet so à propos to today's geopolitical negotiators. I recall the percussive, dynamic score, but vaguely. Tell me about F. A. Cohen, and what you use as a musical guide for this score.

DLM: F. A. Cohen was a native of Germany, and worked closely with Kurt Jooss on several scores in addition to “The Green Table”. He moved to the USA after the War, settled in New York, and started the Juilliard Opera Theater. I think of his score for “The Green Table” as a quintessential musical theater piece, with all the standard dance forms, such as the tango, waltz, march, etc., combined with a harsh, sardonic quality, akin to Kurt Weill.

REZ: I have reviewed Balanchine's "Valse-Fantaisie" in 2003 and 2009, both times across the Plaza. The Glinka score, as I noted, then, impressed me as romantic and ebullient. How does it impress you? Tell me the high points, and how the rehearsal is focused, musically.

DLM: The “Valse-Fantaisie”, written by Glinka, also had revisions done by two other composers, Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. It has terrific melodies, inventive orchestration, and one very unusual feature, which is that it is written in three-bar phrases, instead of the usual four. It is being rehearsed by Stacy Caddell, a former NYCB dancer, who now stages works for the Balanchine Trust and Twyla Tharp. She's very musical, so it's a delight to work with her.

REZ: It appears I last reviewed Twyla Tharp's "The Brahms-Haydn Variations" in 2010 with ABT. I noted, then, that the ballet was pyrotechnic and exuberant. I hope that will be the case again this season. Are you working with Ms. Tharp or did she give you written guidelines? Are you trying to recreate the ballet brio of 2010?

DLM: Susan Jones, our esteemed Ballet Mistress, is staging “The Brahms-Haydn Variations” for the Company this time. It's a monumental work, a true symphonic masterpiece, and I hope that I can rise to the level of this great piece. And I think it's one of Tharp's best for the Company.

REZ: Ratmansky's "Piano Concerto #1", with its Shostakovich score, is exhilarating. Who are you bringing in as featured pianist and trumpet player? This is a brilliant ballet, made so, because of the spectacularly dynamic concerto. Tell me how you approach this ballet, especially with all the spinning and dashing choreography, with some of the music so propulsive that, played too fast, could drive a dancer into a dervish whirl or slippery slide.

DLM: Our piano soloist for the Shostakovich Concerto is Barbara Bilach, an old friend and very gifted pianist, who does most of the concerto work for the Company. The solo trumpet part will be handled by Carl Albach, our principal trumpet for the ABT Orchestra. You can also hear both these wonderful musicians in Mark Morris' new ballet, entitled “After You”, which is set to the “Military Septet” by Hummel. Frankly, speed is not an issue in this ballet, because Alexei Ratmansky prefers faster tempi, especially in the outer movements. There is a cartoonish, unpredictable quality to the last movement, influenced by Shostakovich's work as a silent film accompanist.

David LaMarche at A. A. Jing
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at